TheBridge profile: Marco Zappacosta
Name: Marco Zappacosta
Current city: San Francisco, CA
Current job: CEO and Co-founder, Thumbtack
Past job: Thumbtack is my first job
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? At the office.
Q. Job advice in three words? Go for it.
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Thumbtack has been my first and only job for more than a decade, which has given me a lot of time -- and the privilege -- to work with a lot of different people. And a key takeaway that at first pass is obvious, but hard to truly internalize and even harder to operationalize is that every person is unique, that they are motivated and excited by different things, and that to help them reach their full potential you have to manage them accordingly.
Q. How are you (or your company) currently bridging the gap between tech, innovation and policy? Thumbtack helps small businesses and service professionals grow by connecting them to customers who are looking for their services. In doing so, we are able to talk to hundreds of thousands of professionals and ask them what challenges they are facing. We share those answers with state and local governments every year in our Small Business Friendliness Survey.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? Policymakers don’t get to choose who to serve -- they have to serve everyone. And in doing so, have to solve for all the edge cases that come with serving such a broad constituency. Thinking and serving broadly is something that we should all be doing more of.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? Innovators succeed by making their customers happy. This customer-centric thinking is something that could benefit policymakers and help them question their assumptions and make sure the programs they design are working as intended.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? I recently enjoyed Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, by Nicholas A. Christakis. In a time when it feels like everyone and everything is emphasizing the differences between us all, it was refreshing to read about the opposite, the commonalities that underpin all of us and are a cause for optimism.
Q. According to recent studies, nearly 30 percent of working-age people are engaging in independent work and many of them are going without many of the benefits traditionally offered by employers. As traditional employment relationships continue to change, what are some of the actions you're taking at Thumbtack to adapt? We’ve learned at Thumbtack that accessing benefits is one of the biggest barriers that holds people back from becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses. We are looking at whatever we can do to reduce those barriers. Earlier this year, we started a pilot project with the National Domestic Workers Alliance who developed a portable benefits platform called Alia. We’re testing it with house cleaners on Thumbtack to see if we can help them access benefits more easily. While it's a small step, we’re optimistic that we will learn quite a bit from the pilot to share with policymakers in designing broader portable benefits systems for all independent workers.
Q. What's one piece of advice you are still trying to master? In order to be a good leader, you’ve got to really know yourself first. This is advice I received long ago, and am still working to master. Truth is, it’s easy to get caught up in the strategic elements of being a founder -- things like how to run a productive meeting, how to help set up company objectives, etc. But truly growing as a leader requires knowing yourself really well -- what your strengths and weaknesses are, how you come off to new people, what your bad habits are, etc. It’s a real challenge, and something you never really finish. I’ve learned it’s key to surround yourself with people who can be honest with you -- constructive feedback is hard to come by, but the only way to get better.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Independence of thought. Someone who isn’t afraid to push back and speak up when they think a proposed approach or idea won’t work -- even if they are the only person in the room who feels that way. New points of view are so valuable within a team because while everyone has the same end goal, there could be a million different ways of getting there.
Q. Living person you admire? My parents; two of the hardest working people I know.
Q. If you had to live in another city, which would it be? If I had to? New York City.
Q. How do you unwind after work? Playing with my one-year old! Nothing reminds me how small my worries really are than being with her.
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