News Feature | March 17, 2014

Trace3 Plays Matchmaker For CIOs, VCs, And New Technologies

Bernadette Wilson

By Bernadette Wilson, associate editor, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @bernadeditor


Red Robin CIO And 2014 Outlier Award Winner Chris Laping Explains How The Program Helps CIOs Find New Ideas To Integrate Into Their Businesses

Trace3 has launched a new technology innovation program that brings together Trace3 clients, venture capitalists (VCs), and technology entrepreneurs. Chris Laping, senior VP of business transformation and CIO for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, is one of the participants in the program. Laping says in the “hypercompetitive” restaurant industry, Red Robin “makes it a practice to routinely comb the market to see what is going on. We need to extend this to combing the market for IT advancements.”

Through the Trace3 program, CIOs who are open to the idea of integrating disruptive technologies into their business operations have the opportunity to communicate their goals to a program curator who arranges a meeting with several IT innovators. When all the parties meet, Laping explains, “It’s like speed dating.” The tech company gets 15 to 30 minutes to pitch their ideas directly to the decision maker of the company.

Laping says the CIOs he knows would prefer this approach — having a company speak directly to their objectives rather than starting with a cold call from a sales rep. “CIOs want to know how something will be delivered and that there are smart engineers focused on their business problems,” Laping comments. With CIOs faced with the balancing act of innovating while at the same time mitigating risk, he appreciates Trace3 arranging for meaningful meetings with potential business partners.

Trace3 connects CIOs not only to IT innovators, but also to VCs. Trace3 has partnerships with VCs such as Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz to aid in awareness, research, vetting, and integration of innovative solutions. Asheem Chandna, investment partner at Greylock Partners, says, "The briefings provide a valuable feedback loop for us as investors, while enabling our portfolio companies to gather insights from real users. These insights can help shape product development and ultimately speed the pace of adoption in the marketplace.”

Chad Cardenas, CIO of Trace3, says, “This program radically changes the nature of our client relationships by giving them early access to the next game-changing, disruptive technologies and entrepreneurs who may wind up being very successful, long-term partners. In today's fast-changing and consolidating tech industry, traditional VARs and SIs provide less value than ever before.  This program underscores how Trace3 is making investments ahead of the business into offerings that create relevance with clients.”

Before Trace3’s program, Laping says the alternative was randomly combing the market for the right solutions for Red Robin. He says, “Trace3 helps accelerate the process — especially when it comes to looking for young companies with fresh perspectives on how to do things.”

Laping, winner of Trace3’s 2014 Outlier Award for transforming his business and driving market success through innovative technologies, says he is fortunate to work in a business environment that supports innovation. Laping and his team have deployed new network tools to respond more quickly to customer demands, to improve company interactions, and to boost staff retention. For example, Laping’s team has developed a creative iPad-based training program for restaurant employees that combines interactive games, simulation exercises, and video tutorials.