‘Technology is a blast!’

Solera founder, chairman and CEO Tony Aquila signed off IBIS2016 by delivering a thought-provoking and far-sighted presentation on the way technology is evolving business – and the need to embrace it rather than fear it.

‘Technology is a blast!’ he said at the outset, setting the tone for the rest of his session. ‘Technology is changing the game. It’s changing business from a contact sport to a content sport.’

Tony then explained how his childhood in ‘Silicon Ghetto’, across the bridge from the technology buffs like Steve Jobs, shaped his approach to technology and innovation. He said the dichotomy of growing up in a rough neighbourhood but within a few miles of the centre of the technological world has helped to mould his character and his career.

He said, ‘I learned a lot about fear and about violence in the Silicon Ghetto. But fear is enabling; being afraid is debilitating. The kings all lived on the other side of the bridge. But you don’t want to be a king. You want to be the king of kings. So I want to say that it doesn’t matter where you come from.’

And Tony’s rags-to-riches story is proof of that. Now heading up a multi-billion-dollar organisation after starting out sweeping floors in a bodyshop, he says Solera is still on the up, with off-the-grid ‘Doing it Different’ departments constantly working on the next innovation to keep Solera ahead of curve. He pointed out that there are 54 transactions across the life of a vehicle. Solera wants to be the Amazon of those transactions and has backed up that ambition with more than $4bn.

‘No matter what that the transaction is,’ he said, ‘we’re after it. I know where every speeding ticket in the United States is issued. And by the way if you’re a bodyshop owner, you can’t think of yourself as just a bodyshop owner, you’re just two of those transactions.

‘My company would not survive by just having a very successful collision repair business. No way.’

To move with the times, in an era when ‘everyone can become a movie producer’ there is only one solution – to innovate.

Tony said, ‘Technology is the most innovative thing in the world that has ever been introduced, and nobody is stopping it. People don’t to read anymore, they want to see it, they want to hear it, they want to feel it.

‘But the greatest battle is about to happen. Websites are for the company, not the customer. Apps are for the company and the customer. Apps is the war. It’s going to be everything. All our technology is going to be on apps and we’re pouring hundreds of million dollars into it.

‘There will be a king of apps that consolidates all your apps. You’re going to have to be in the app game too.’

He concluded, ‘In the future, doing it right will not be enough to survive. Simultaneously you’ll have to do it better and simultaneous to that you’ll have to do it different.’