Apprentice

Jeremy Gutsche, Founder Of Trend Hunter (INTERVIEW)

By: Nigel Goodwin - Published: Dec 27, 2006 • References: trendhunter
Simply put, Jeremy Gutsche IS Trend Hunter Magazine.

As the founder and publisher of Trend Hunter Magazine, Jeremy scouts the frontiers of the virtual world in a bold search for new ideas. He is the publication's visionary and top contributor. A spokesman for creativity and an advocate for change, he frequently appears in the media to discuss what's new and hot. He is insatiably curious. He pursues innovation relentlessly. He is, as declared by MTV, "on the forefront of cool."

And that's just what he does for fun.

By day, Jeremy heads the Prime and Superprime Acquisition Business for Capital One Canada. He also leads the organization's Competitive Strategy and Innovation imperative. Jeremy holds a bachelors degree in finance as well as an MBA. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and recently studied Customer Focused Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In other words, he's some kind of business guru.

So read on - the man knows his stuff.

20 Questions with Jeremy

1. How did you become interested in trend hunting?

I've always been insatiably curious and obsessed with innovation. As a kid, I was constantly brainstorming new inventions. In fact, I invented a magnetic car at age 10. Unfortunately, by age 12, I learned that the Japanese had created an actual magnetic train. This made me suspicious. However, a couple years later, I stopped assuming that they stole my idea and started looking for my next business opportunity.

In my constant search for new business ideas, I decided that I would like to create a community where people could post cool discoveries, unique inventions and emerging trends. In short, I wanted a place where people could discover the next big thing.

2. How long have you been looking for trends?

I guess I've been trend watching all my life, trying to dream up entrepreneurial ideas. I became more serious about looking for trends in my undergrad and again during my MBA. When you're a student, you find yourself constantly dreaming of what you want to do next.

3. Tell me more about the background behind Trend Hunter?

I've always been an entrepreneur at heart, searching for the next big thing. Accordingly, I created Trend Hunter as a community for people to share ideas. Along the way, the site itself became a business, and now I am honored and excited to provide a place where people can find inspiration.

In 1994, I started my first website. It featured random stuff and a hideous design. By 1998, I made something better, called XLR8.tv. It was meant to be a directory of wonderful things, like BoingBoing is today. Unfortunately, I didn't know you could make money on the internet, so I let it die. In retrospect, it appears that I was a little bit wrong: My biggest regret is that I waited too many years before kicking it up again with Trend Hunter.

4. What is your definition of a trend spotting?

Trend spotting (a.k.a. trend watching) is the science of identifying emerging shifts in our social behavior and aspirations. Trends are driven by a range of factors, including pop culture, media, news, innovation, and the arts. Trend spotting is used by industry professionals to develop products, enhance idea generation, and inform marketing, media, design and strategic planning.

If you are trend spotting with the intent to innovate, then you need to be more structured about your process. Most of the articles on Trend Hunter are on the cutting edge, which help to inspire readers, but my personal Trend Spotting process involves Hunting, Gathering, Spotting and Selecting.

One caution, though, is what I call my Rule #1 - For groundbreaking innovation, you cannot accept someone else's macro-trends. You need to hunt for your own trends based on a wide variety of sources, including your customers. By developing relevant insights, you can better unlock your innovation potential.

For example, if I told you that the macro trend for 2007 was that, "ultra luxury will be hot," there isn't too much you can do with that as an innovator. You could make something luxurious, I guess. However, for breakthrough innnovation, you would really want to understand the drivers of that trend. You would want to be very specific in your understanding of the insight. You would want to know how those drivers combine with insights about your own customers in your market.

Jeremy Gutsche's Guide to Trend Spotting (BETA)

1) HUNT - search for cool and collect observations.
(Trend Hunter + The Web + Your Industry + Your Customers)

2) GATHER - Record your observations in a way you can sort them.
e.g. one per sticky note, one per cell in excel, etc.

3) SPOT - Cluster the observations into meaningful groups.
Mix them up. Try clustering them a different way.

4) SELECT - Identify the powerful insights - these are your trends!

5) INNOVATE - Innovate and brainstorm based on your top trends

5. What is your definition of cool hunting?

Cool hunting isn't the search for what's popular. Cool hunting is the search for what's NOT popular – yet. In fact, Cool hunters and industry professionals typically refer to cool as the NEXT big thing. Once something becomes mainstream, its novelty and appeal is lost. Unfortunately, that means most of the cool concepts you discover, were only cool 5 minutes ago.

6. How do you yourself discover trends?

Travel is one of the best ways to find new trends, but in the absence of some time off and a big budget, you can do a pretty good job by scanning some of the top sites on the net.

Personally, I use the Trend Hunter Dashboard a lot. In fact, I created the dashboard for myself and later opened it up to the public.

7. How do you compete with trend analysts and market research companies that use quantitative means and special trackers to follow trends?

Trend Hunter is focused on trend HUNTING, not gathering, spotting or selecting. As a result, the site is better able to provide you with an overload of cool innovations that you can use in the trend process. The nice thing about Trend Hunter is that it is a compilation from thousands of Trend Hunters around the world. That means we publish a relatively large volume of trends each week and our international collection is pretty authentic.

At this point there isn't too much analysis on the site. However, I have a seven year history of studying consumer behavior, market dynamics, and business trends, so I am eager to add more analytics to the site. Specifically, I worked as a Management Consultant for 4 years, and I currently head the competitive strategy and innovation imperative for Capital One Canada. In the long run, I think this is the area where Trend Hunter will really separate itself from other websites.

8. Have any of your predictions been wrong?

I hope so! The purpose of Trend Hunter is to look for the next big thing. As a result, most of the trends are emerging or in their early stages, which means there is a lower probability of them becoming mainstream. If I only picked trends that were certain to take off, I'd be finding trends that were already mainstream. Many of the individual trends may never catch on, but there's a lot that can be learned by studying everything that is new.

9. What makes a trend noteworthy, in your opinion?

In my opinion, a noteworthy trend should influence change and inspire creativity. It's that simple. I'd also like to note that I chose the above words carefully. My definition intentionally does not reference whether or not the trend itself takes off. There are numerous examples of innovation which have been unsuccessful in their own domain, but inspired others to be creativity.

10. You've seen thousands of trends posted on Trend Hunter. What are some of your favorites?

- Get a Personalized Phone Call from Samuel Jackson
- The Half Suit – Business on top, Party Below
- The Innespace Dolphin Personal Watercraft
- Award Winning Pee and Poo Dolls
- The Rise of Shock Labels – Cocaine Energy Drink

11. Trend Hunter covers a broad spectrum in terms of its content. Are there any particular industries that attract your own attention?

Southeast Asian tap dancing. However, much to my dismay, nobody ever posts trends in that category. ;) So that leaves me with advertising, technology and luxury.

12. Who is Trend Hunter aimed at?

Trend Hunter is used by industry professionals to enhance idea generation and analysis in the fields of marketing, art, media, design and strategic planning. By tracking the evolution of cool, Trend Hunters generate ideas, stimulate creativity, and ultimately shape our social context. For those outside of these industries, Trend Hunter is used to satisfy curiosity and to entertain!

13. What's next?

DAYDREAM - I would like to be more like Richard Branson and maybe jump out of a plane into a monster truck like he did when he launched Virgin Mobility Canada.

REALITY - Trend Hunter is still a long way from where I want it to be. As a result, I add something new to the functionality or design each week. The aim is to keep building the community features and make the site more rewarding for its members. I am always open to suggestions and love getting emails from Trend Hunter fans.

14. Name three heros:

My Dad, Sig Gutsche – He's an entrepreneur who made something from nothing and taught me the value of innovation. He added a few trends, but I had to cut him off when he started having too much fun and posting things like, “cell phones – trust me, these are going to be big” Here's his trend hunter portfolio.

Richard Branson – He's the rebel billionaire and that's pretty cool. He also made something from nothing and now he's getting into space travel. Here's a post from a lunch with him.

TBD. I've met a lot of inspirational people lately, and I am not sure who to pick as #3. I'd love to get a mentor for this whole Trend Hunter thing: ;)

15. You're a fan of Branson, but he's not the only attention-grabbing billionaire out there. So let me ask you this: Branson versus Trump - who's better, and why?

Donald Trump has done a great job to capitalize on his brand, and you have to enjoy the concept of his show. However, there's something cool about Virgin Galactic that Trump hasn't yet found a way to match.

16. Your bio mentions a love for extreme sports. Very Richard Branson. What sports have you tried?

I was raised near the Rocky Mountains, so extreme skiing and whitewater rafting are my happy places. In terms of skiing, I raced for 11 years, so living in Toronto is detrimental to my fun. I've also been bobsledding, skydiving, zip lining, and motorcycle racing. Most recently, I raced a Baja 500 race car in Cabo and this month I start flight school.

In the world of adventure, I still have a lot to try. Here are some innovative sports posted to Trend Hunter that look fun:
- The Powerski JetBoard
- The Flybar Elastomeric Spring Pogo Stick
- Innespace Dolphin Personal Watercraft
- Body Rolling - The 50 MPH Bodysuit

17. You're very busy in business, entrepreneurship and trend hunting. What's your biggest motivation? Where do you find your energy?

I am motivated to create. If I am engaged in a cool project or launching a new feature on Trend Hunter, it's pretty easy for me to forget about the need for sleep. If I didn't have a project to work on, I'd probably sleep all day. Fortunately, I have a massive to-do list, so nobody is accusing me of sleeping my life away.

18. What are your professional goals? What do you hope to accomplish in your career, in the immediate/medium/long term?

I want to make Trend Hunter a better community and finish a book I recently started. I'd also like to launch a cool charity (I have an idea but lack the time to make it happen). Long term, I'd like to semi retire as a business professor (I love teaching, but I would always need to be working on another project on the side).

19. If you weren't a businessman and entrepreneur, what else would you do for a living?

Not entrepreneurial? I guess that kills my dream of selling Beanie Babies on eBay. My back-up dreams are all creative or people-oriented: product designer, inventor, architect, documentary film producer, motivational speaker, or university professor.

I also studied a lot of science and neuropsychology, but I never wanted to disect a frog in high school, so that would probably set me back. Race car driver would also be a nice profession, but admittedly I am being influenced by Will Farrell as Ricky Bobby. (Fact: will Farrell is the funniest man on the planet).

20. Describe yourself using only five words.

I like to describe myself as, "Insatiably curious and relentlessly creative".
My best friends would describe me as, "Hopelessly addicted to Trend Hunter"

Thanks Jeremy!