Planting the seeds of innovation
Vickie Rodgers is Vice President of MDU Sales at Cox Communications. As a Techstars Atlanta mentor, she’s passionate about making big ideas blossom into thriving businesses.
Building connections is central to Vickie Rodgers’ career at Cox Communications.
She leads sales for Cox Communities, one of Cox Communications’ residential businesses lines that supports internet, TV, phone and smart home services for multifamily and multi-dwelling units. Her talent for helping people get connected translates well to her role as a Techstars Atlanta mentor.
“I just love every aspect of startups,” Vickie said. “Even in my own team in Cox, we do a lot of innovation and new launches. The whole concept of taking an idea, sizing the opportunity, launching it and seeing it be successful is very fulfilling.”
Vickie, who joined Cox eight years ago, built the strategy for Cox’s community segment from the ground up. What was once a small but mighty team of two people has grown to 250. This has given Vickie valuable perspective on growing a team and morphing ideas into revenue.
“Part of the growth is because our team has done so much ‘mini’ startup work,” she said. “A lot of what we’ve done on our team is similar to what [founders] go through.”
And because Cox encompasses a wide range of brands and businesses, working within the company can feel like being part of a startup ecosystem all its own.
“Our umbrella of brands is impressive; just take a look at our core businesses and how they’ve grown,” Vickie said. “Those core companies support us now as we reinvest money in several areas that will become core businesses later on. You see all these seedlings we’re nurturing for the next generation.”
“Passion is contagious”
So what is being a Techstars mentor like? For Vickie, it’s primarily about pushing founders to consider their unique value propositions and target markets.
“My role as a mentor is more about the go-to-market strategy, and the marketing and sales strategy,” she said. “Since a lot of the Techstars startups are tech-based, a lot of the founders are engineers who might not be as familiar with sales and marketing. Whether it’s giving them access to the right people, information or subject matter experts, I’m here to help them move their businesses along faster.”
Vickie explained that amidst the intense focus of the Techstars program, the founders’ passion for their businesses shines through.
“The excitement and passion are contagious,” she said. “You want to support people who believe in what they’re doing. Supporting people with a strong ‘why’ is important. You also have to remember that mental health and stress are a big deal when you’re starting a business. Sometimes a lot of what you’re doing in the mentor role is keeping them calm. Sometimes it’s just talking to them and steadying them when they’re feeling anxiety and reminding them when to take a break.”
Mentors also help founders take a step back from their businesses and ask themselves tough questions.
“I think the main thing is to try and understand what they’re doing end-to-end,” Vickie said. “Asking them hard questions is important. Sometimes they’re so emotionally connected to it, and you have to take off their rosy glasses.”
Vickie specifically recalled one instance where she encouraged a founder to reevaluate their target audience.
“They had already decided what the audience wanted, and I had to say ‘Look, I work with this segment all the time; I’m not sure that’s what they want. You have to talk to your customers.’”
After that conversation, Vickie was able connect the founder with a focus group supplier so they could do their due diligence on audience research.
“Connections that may seem really simple to us are a big deal,” she said. “It helped them make decisions about their business.”
“Bettering the earth”
Vickie firmly believes that strong startups make for strong communities – and she believes that Cox has a big part to play in helping both.
“When I look at Cox as a whole, I see that we’re good community partners and I think that’s huge,” she said. “Being part of the startup ecosystem also gives us purview into the exciting technologies that are coming, and what problems people are trying to solve for.”
She emphasized that Cox’s investment in areas like cleantech and healthcare is crucial to strengthening communities and the planet.
“I love that we invest in things that better the earth,” she said. “Much of what we invest in will improve our world. And Cox has been innovative like that for a long time. Think back to Governor Cox in Ohio – around the time that the Wright brothers were starting to take flight and many things that we take for granted today were being created; there were many ‘startups’ back then too. And I think it will be the same way with many of the areas that Cox is innovating in now.”
Curious to read more stories about Cox’s innovation impact? Click here.