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An innovative digital design firm with an award-winning agency culture
Keith Scandone is the co-founder and CEO of O3 World, a digital product design and development company based in Philadelphia. As a strategic partner to its clients, O3 World provides clients with digital solutions in areas such as web and application development, mobile, and e-commerce. The company’s clients have included Thomson Reuters, Comcast, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the University of Pennsylvania. In recognition of its unique culture, O3 World has been named as one of Entrepreneur’s “Top Company Cultures” and “Best Entrepreneurial Companies,” as well as one of Philadelphia’s “Best Places to Work.” The company also organizes the annual Forge Conference, which brings together digital innovators from in and outside of Philadelphia.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about your company. What kinds of businesses do you work with?
KEITH SCANDONE: Over the last 12 years, we’ve had the luxury of working with hundreds of clients, from professional services and B2B, to a lot of our consumer goods and retail clients, and nonprofit higher ed. We’ve been very fortunate in that regard. We’ve had the luxury to work with a lot of large and small companies in all different industries over the course of the last 12 years.
Q. What inspired you to create the Forge Conference?
A. The Forge Conference is one example of an extension of the values that O3 stands for. We want to be able to have an impact on the community and the industry, and Forge allows us to do that. Forge is a user experience and product design conference. It’s been running for three years. It’s about a 300-person conference. It’s always been very important for us to look at the conference as a way to get some very well-known speakers from large companies like Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, Amazon, and others to come into the city. Philadelphia tends to be sometimes a little insulated in terms of our knowledge base and insights, so we try each year to get 12 of the 13 speakers from outside of the area, and I think it’s been a way to put a spotlight on the city as to the kind of conferences that we can throw, and the importance of user experience and product design.
Forge is, again, an extension of O3’s values overall about the impact we want to have on the community and the industry. I believe very strongly in collaboration for the greater good, and that collaboration may be with community members, it may be with government leaders, it may be with competition in our space—whether we collaborate with them on products for clients, or whether we collaborate with them on events to help the city, or to bond in some regard. I think that’s really important, and Forge is just one example of that.
Q. Can you give us some other examples of how O3 fulfills those values?
A. We started Labs, which is essentially our research and development division, a couple of years ago. The great thing about Labs is that technology moves, obviously, at an extremely fast pace, and we are typically hired because it’s our job to be innovative and to stay ahead of the curve on technology. Sometimes projects themselves don’t always enable us to do that, so we use Labs and R&D as an opportunity to experiment with new and emerging technologies, whether it’s "IOT" the internet of things—you know, connection of software and hardware—or just in general new technologies, finding creative and unique ways to leverage technology in a business application.
The other great thing about experimenting with that knowledge is establishing us as an innovative, creative company. In a lot of the work that we do, the idea is to come up with a prototype as quickly as possible. Before you want to put something out to the marketplace and spend a good deal of money on it, you want to test it to make sure there’s actually an audience there. You can only do that through so much user research and so many interviews before you actually have a product that people can use. The idea of Labs, which is a very limited, time-boxed amount of time we put into these projects, enables us to shift that thinking to how we work for solutions for clients as well.
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