An Open Reflection on Taoti’s Past, Present, and Future by its CEO, Brent Lightner

Click here to read the full press release.

On January 1st, 2017, Taoti Creative finalized its acquisition of SochaDev LLC (a high-end web and app development shop out of Madison, WI.)  This move comes on the heels of some other milestone events for Taoti (building out new office space on Capitol Hill, obtaining a GSA contract with the federal government, ranking in the Inc.5000 list, and celebrating our 20th year anniversary, to name a few.)  2016 was a banner year for Taoti by any standard, and I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going.

I started Taoti more than twenty years ago out of a college dorm room in the hills of central Pennsylvania (props to Juniata College for supporting my endeavor—a real risk for them at the time!)  Fast forward twenty years, and Taoti has evolved from a one-man-web-dev shop into a thriving digital agency with staff and clients around the country and around the globe.  In a recent job interview, a candidate asked me what I attributed our success to.  Of course, there are so many factors.  But as I tried to recount twenty years of shifting priorities and strategies, it has always come down to one fundamental element:

“It’s about the work.”

Everything we do at Taoti boils down to setting us up to do the best work we know how to do.  And by ‘best,’ I mean meaningful work that generates results and makes an impact–or as we like to say, moves the needle. 

We’ve been working with the SochaDev team for a while, and every time we did, we were impressed with their ability to deliver great work.  The motivation to combine forces with them is pretty much as simple as that.  Their team—far more so than most development shops—get user experience at a core level.  In many places, devs and UX designers duke it out over specs, resources, priorities, etc.  Not Socha.  Jason Socha, the namesake founder of the company has instilled a culture of baking heuristic design and functionality into everything his team produces, and the work speaks for itself.  Once news of the acquisition got out, I was approached by consultants offering to help us merge cultures, but those services simply weren’t needed.  Taoti and SochaDev were two peas from the same pod when it comes to our corporate cultures focusing on great work.

And so, team Taoti grows again.  Not just in capacity, but in capability and expertise.  In one fell swoop, Taoti’s full time (or equivalent) head count ticks above fifty for the first time, and practically overnight, we add some of the best minds in the business to our already impressive staff roster.  We have the privilege of adding some great clients to our portfolio as well, such as Discovery Education and Mindspace.

With Jason Socha at the helm of our global development team, Taoti has some new bandwidth to focus on a strategic plan we put into effect almost two years ago: to evolve beyond a web dev shop and become a full service digital agency that puts results at the beginning of every equation without being limited by a specific technology or platform focus.  Many people associate Taoti as being Drupal or WordPress shop.  And to be fair, those two platform still dominate our work load.  But it’s not about the platform—it’s about what we can do with it.  Technology is just a tool in the toolbox—a means to an end.  What makes Taoti tick is in our ability to see past technology to meaningful solutions.  We start every new project with “What does success look like?”  And we work backwards from there.

In trying to reverse engineer success for our clients, we came to appreciate that seldom does ‘just a website’ provide for all the answers.  To really be effective, Taoti needed to expand its area of influence within our clients’ ecosystems so that we could really get at the heart of the objectives we’re hired to achieve.  This expanded our perspective and drove us to solutions that require digital strategies that go beyond just web.  So today, we also announce the creation of “Taoti Labs.”  What has been a ‘thinking and tinkering’ exercise previous has evolved into a staffed and funded R&D branch of Taoti designed to scratch our itch to innovate.  With this new department, we now offer a full range of emerging technology services including connected devices, social machines, app development, virtual and augment reality, experiential installations, and essentially anything else that needs to be devised, programmed, or constructed—in the digital or physical realm.  Utilizing emerging technologies like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, this new ‘maker’ capacity within Taoti will give us the ability to approach projects even more creatively and create new devices and campaigns to take our solutions to the next level.

But for all these investments in new people, new technologies, and new strategies, it doesn’t change Taoti’s core philosophy: it’s about the work.   Taoti’s commitment to quality, innovation, and service (something we internally refer to as our “QIS Culture”) and our focus on ‘moving the needle’ will continue to be the driving force behind our success and growth.

Despite our recent list of milestones, this is really a beginning for Taoti.  2016 was a year that put Taoti on the map in many ways.  But 2017 will see the culmination of a lot of investments and strategies that have been years in the making.  On day 25 of the year, we’ve already taken Taoti to a new level, and as we continue to add top talent and progressive clients, we have no intention of slowing down.

I offer both my sincere appreciation and congratulations to the passionate, hard-working people who have put Taoti where it is today—both clients and staff.  And I wholeheartedly implore the next generation of Taoti employees, partners, and customers to embrace our QIS culture and focus on the work.  It’s how we move our own needle!

-Brent