How to Unlock Digital Product Innovation
J Cornelius is a brand strategist, experience designer, and business consultant. He is the Founder and CEO of Nine Labs, a digital experience design and strategy consultancy based in Atlanta, GA. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with J and pick his brain about all things design, business, and technology. Here are a few highlights from that conversation.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
The main problem that I solve is helping early stage ideas become real. You have an idea on the back of a napkin and you want to build it into an app or you want to turn it into a company—how do you do that? What do you need from a technology perspective? What do you need from an understanding the market perspective? What do you need from a team building perspective? We come in from a strategic level and look at what it takes to make great software. We understand that from dozens and dozens of years of experience. If it’s an early stage or growth stage idea, we can typically make it better. If it happens on a screen, we can typically make it better. It’s just a matter of understanding people, understanding people who are using things, what their pain points are, what they’re going through, what they’re trying to accomplish, and then designing something that fits that.
You’ve been an entrepreneur since you were a teenager, so you’ve had a lot of wins. What’s something you’re super proud of professionally?
I try not to take too much pride in those wins because they’re always balanced by a bunch of losses. It’s nice when you see things succeed—when you give somebody an idea and you see them turn that into something else, or when you can solve somebody’s business problem in a ten-minute conversation. Those little things add up to a big win for me.
"That’s a lesson I’ve brought with me all these years—if you figure out what people really want and you figure out a way to give it to them and a way to capture business value along the way, you’re gonna get a win.” - @JC
What are some business problems that you solve?
The problems are typically measured in things like people aren’t making it all the way through a process. Maybe you’ve got a shopping cart and can’t figure out why people are abandoning at the checkout phase. Maybe you’ve got an app that you get a lot of downloads for but you don’t get a lot of repeat uses. Or you have a product that’s been around a while and you’ve started seeing usage drop. How do you take an existing product that’s working in one market and take it to another market? Those are all things where it’s essentially looking at things like Who’s the market? What do they want? Where’s their pain point? and identifying how to solve that. They’re all essentially the same problem, they just manifest themselves in different ways.
Tell us a bit about Nine Labs.
Nine Labs is a product strategy consulting company. We’re focused on early and growth stage ideas—not companies—because that could be a startup who’s just coming up out of the ground or a giant company who wants to launch something new. If you’ve got something that you are struggling to figure out how to bring it to market or struggling to get it into growth stage, that’s where we can come in and provide a lot of product strategy on how to do that. How to reconfigure interfaces or build them from scratch. How to better understand peoples’ needs and wants so you can build something that satisfies them. We can help you source a team through companies like 3Ci, help you understand how to build an organization that’s a good, functional product team, how to make product, UX, and development all work together as one cohesive unit to create something that people love.
You’re based here in Atlanta. What does that say about the opportunity that exists here?
I was born in Athens, so I kind of consider myself to be an Atlanta native. What I think Atlanta offers that a lot of other cities don’t is a higher quality of lifestyle at a regular price tag. You can come here, live a good life, be around lots of smart people, and do great work. It’s not like you’re living in a petri dish or echo chamber—there are so many other diverse types of businesses here that you can learn from and, in turn, help. It’s a really great place to be in business.
Want to listen in to the whole conversation? Check out Titania Jordan’s 1:1 interview with J Cornelius of Nine Labs right here.
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